In its first game of the 2019 Cayman Islands Classic, Nebraska used a dominant second-half effort to surge past Washington State for a 82-71 win and its third win of the year.
The Huskers, now 3-2, will face off against George Mason (6-1) Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT as play continues. (George Mason beat Old Dominion 60-53 in its first game.) First, here are three thoughts from the win.
Rough night for the broadcast crew. Really rough. They butchered freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo’s name over and over—which is pretty understandable given he’s French and his last name basically has as many consonants as Iowa does conference titles since I was born—but then they butchered sophomore wing Thorir Thorbjarnarson’s name and senior forward Matej Kavas’ name and then said senior wing Haanif Cheatham, with his 6.8 points per game, loves to “score the basket.”
The best moment came when Nebraska was declared a team with “a ton of size.”
The point here is not to railroad a pair of broadcasters calling their seventh and eighth teams of the day—yes they need to be more prepared and yes these guys are given pronunciation guides before hand—but rather to point out some irony.
Nebraska, a team with a ton of size that doesn’t actually have a ton of size, got beat too often on the offensive glass by Washington State, a team with actual size (and a 7-footer). The Huskers gave up 15 offensive boards and 20 second-chance points.
Combine those with the 15 Husker turnovers and that’s too many free possessions for the opponent.
Washington State wasn’t anything special on offense. Transition decision-making was as bad my AirPod Pro joke on Twitter Sunday, offensive shot selection was suspect and shot-making was rough. Thirteen turnovers and 37% shooting from the field.
A team like that doesn’t need extra looks to hang around. A better team will make you pay if you give them that many opportunities.
Ouedraogo had just one rebound in 13 minutes. The rebounding help from the other guys (Jervay Green and Cam Mack each had eight, Cheatham had seven) is crucial, but the Frenchman wasn’t out there to solely box out Wazzu’s big man. He needs to end possessions.
But it’s not just on Ouedraogo. As a team, Nebraska needs to be better at ending possessions. It has allowed double-digit offensive boards in every game so far, with a season-worst 18 allowed last time out against Southern.
Cam Mack is going to power this team. The point guard will do that. Mack had 10 points, seven boards, six assists and three steals against the Wildcats.
Dachon Burke is a smooth, natural scorer. The junior guard had 14 points to mark his third double-digit effort in his first five games as a Husker.
Kevin Cross deserves to be included in any conversation about “nightly players the Huskers will rely on for scoring.” The freshman forward had 14 and eight. He’s averaging 11 points a game off the bench this season.
I think the Huskers will take a couple games off teams they aren’t supposed to this season. It’s obvious they’re going to lose a couple games they aren’t supposed to. The common denominator in those games will be Green.
The 6-foot-3 junior is going to be the X-factor. Green can either run very cold (five points, 2-of-9 shooting in the UC Riverside loss) or he can get very hot in a hurry. He put up 16 points and eight boards, knocking down three of his first four triples. (He finished 3-for-5.)
The 3-point shooting is important. Green is a volume shooter who opened the year 3-for-16 from distance. For his last two games, he’s now 7-for-11 from deep.
Nebraska put Washington State to bed with a 48-34 second half that saw the Huskers post a 64% clip from the field while holding Wazzu to 32%. Green got things going with eight of the Huskers’ first 12 points to open the half. Fourteen of his 16 overall came in the last 20 minutes.
It’s no coincidence that’s when Nebraska pulled away.
They’re Supposed to be Free
In five games Nebraska has now shot 9-for-19 (47.4%), 19-for-29 (65.6%), 13-for-23 (56.5%), 19-for-37 (51.2%) and 13-for-25 (52%) from the free throw line.
When the competition levels pick up, that’s not going to get it done. Head coach Fred Hoiberg said after the game things were a lot closer than they needed to be as a result of the missed opportunities at the line.
Nebraska has shooters. It has pretty good shooters. That leads me to think this is about confidence or approach or focus or something else mental. It needs to get straightened out.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.